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1st black La. Supreme Court justice dies at 84
Blog News | 2008/06/23 14:29
Revius Ortique Jr., the first black justice on the Louisiana Supreme Court, has died of complications from a stroke. He was 84.

Current Supreme Court Justice Kitty Kimball says Ortique died Sunday.

Ortique was elected to the court in 1992, but had to step down two years later when he reached the state's mandatory retirement age for judges at 70.

As a civil rights lawyer in the 1950s and '60s, he helped integrate state labor unions and sued to get equal pay for black workers.

He held several presidential appointments, including a stint as an alternate delegate to the United Nations under President Clinton.



Trial Suspended Over Judge's Dirty Web Site
Blog News | 2008/06/12 14:33
An obscenity trial in Los Angeles Federal Court was suspended after it was revealed that presiding 9th Circuit Chief Judge Alex Kozinski posted sexually explicit photographs and videos on a Web site that he has since blocked from the public, The Los Angeles Times reported.

Kozinski, 57, claims he had no idea that the graphic materials, which included a photo of naked women painted to look like cows and a video of a man "cavorting with a sexually aroused farm animal," were available to the public, The Times reported.

Kozinski is presiding over the trial of Los Angeles filmmaker Ira Isaacs, who is accused of violating U.S. obscenity laws by making pornographic films depicting extreme fetishes, including bestiality and defecation. Jurors were set to view hours of allegedly obscene videos during trial.

Kozinski told The Times that some of the material was inappropriate, while others he claimed were meant as jokes. "Is it prurient? I don't know what to tell you," he told the the paper. "I think it's odd and interesting. It's a part of life."

The judge, considered a judicial conservative, was appointed to the bench at age 35 by Ronald Regan, making him the youngest federal appeals court judge in the country. He has a reputation for championing free speech and the First Amendment.

Before it was blocked, the site alex.kozinski.com contained extensive sexually explicit material, The Times claims, including images of masturbation and public sex. "There was a slide show striptease featuring a transsexual, and a folder that contained a series of photos of women's crotches as seen through snug fitting clothing or underwear. There were also themes of defecation and urination, though they are not presented in a sexual context," Times reporter Scott Glover wrote.

"People send me stuff like this all the time," Kozinski told The Times. He said he saves items he finds interesting or amusing that he might later send to friends. But he said that he must have accidentally uploaded some of the more explicit images to his server while trying to upload something else.


Attorney: SC Firm, Railroad to Settle
Blog News | 2008/04/07 15:17

A textile company that closed after a train wreck and toxic chemical spill in 2005 settled a lawsuit with a railroad company, ending a trial that began a month ago, an attorney for the firm said Monday.

Avondale Mills, Norfolk Southern railroad and the mill's insurance company reached a deal over the weekend, said attorney Terry Richardson. He said the agreement did not allow him to release the details of the settlement.

Avondale Mills sued Norfolk Southern for $420 million in damages, claiming equipment at the firm's Graniteville facilities was covered with corrosive chemicals and it would have cost more than the business was worth to clean the buildings and replace the machinery.

On Jan. 6, 2005, a Norfolk Southern train veered off the main track onto a spur, rear-ending a parked train whose crew had failed to switch the tracks back to the main rail. The wreck ruptured a car carrying chlorine and released a poisonous cloud over the mill town of Graniteville. Nine people died and 250 were injured. Some 5,400 people were evacuated.

Richardson said Norfolk Southern should be held accountable because the railroad knew members of the crew operating the Graniteville tracks the night before the crash had been working long hours in violation of company rules.



Former Latham Partner Pleads Guilty
Blog News | 2008/03/31 14:53

A former partner at Latham & Watkins pleaded guilty Friday to defrauding both clients and his own firm by charging them more than $300,000 in personal or false expenses.

Samuel A. Fishman, a mergers and acquisition specialist in Latham's New York office from 1993 to 2005, was designated billing partner for a number of firm clients. According to prosecutors at the Southern District of New York U.S. Attorney's Office, Fishman, 51, used his position to carry out a fraudulent scheme over the course of several years.

Responsible for supervising and approving invoices sent to clients, Fishman added to the bills a number of inappropriate items, mischaracterizing them as charges for photocopying or express mail. He also fraudulently sought reimbursement from his firm for a number of personal expenses he claimed were for business.

The U.S. Attorney's Office did not identify Latham as Fishman's firm in a criminal information filed with the guilty plea, nor was the firm's name mentioned in court Friday afternoon when Fishman entered his plea to one count of mail fraud. But in a statement Friday, the firm acknowledged Fishman as a former partner and said his misconduct had come to light in 2005.

Latham "immediately acted to protect our clients fully, and disclosed the matter to appropriate law enforcement authorities," said David Gordon, Latham's New York managing partner. "Mr. Fishman resigned from the firm at the time the issues were discovered. Since that time, we have cooperated fully with the investigation."

In announcing Fishman's guilty plea, prosecutors noted that the firm had reimbursed its clients hundreds of thousands of dollars that had been fraudulently charged. A firm spokesman Friday declined to identify the clients defrauded by Fishman.

The criminal information said Fishman's clients were in the banking, utilities, telecommunications and entertainment industries. He has previously acted as lead counsel for companies including movie theater chain AMC Entertainment Inc. and JPMorgan Partners, the private equity arm of JPMorgan Chase & Co.

Accompanied at Friday's hearing by defense lawyer Jack Litman of Litman, Asche & Goiella, Fishman expressed remorse to Southern District Judge Victor Marrero.

"I am very sorry for what I did," he told the judge.

Fishman's sentencing is scheduled for June 27. The mail fraud charge carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison. Fishman also has agreed to forfeit $350,000 in ill-gotten wealth. He also faces likely disbarment.

A number of major firms have had to deal in recent years with fraud by partners, though most instances have resulted in disbarment or other disciplinary sanction as opposed to criminal prosecution.

In 2006, former WilmerHale intellectual property partner William P. DiSalvatore resigned from the bar after admitting to a litany of misconduct, including falsifying expense reports and assigning associates to perform "pro bono" work for friends and family. He claimed more than $109,000 in false personal expense.

Willkie Farr & Gallagher and the former Kronish Lieb Weiner & Hellman are two other firms that have also terminated partners for fraudulently seeking reimbursement for personal expenses.

In most such cases, including that of Fishman, the defrauded amounts have been small compared to what the perpetrators earn as partners. Last month, Latham said it had profits per partner of $2.3 million in 2007.

Steven Lubet, a legal ethics professor at Northwestern University School of Law, said he always found it "incredible" that highly paid partners would resort to fraud. He said he could only imagine that such people were overspending trying to emulate the lifestyles of those they represented.

"The clients have that kind of money, the lawyers don't," said Lubet. "Sometimes, lawyers decide they want to live like their clients and that extra money has to come from somewhere."

Perhaps the most well-known case of a lawyer bilking his clients and firm was Webster Hubbell, the former associate attorney general under President Bill Clinton.

Hubbell was forced to resign his position in 1994 after his former partners at Arkansas' Rose Law Firm discovered billing irregularities. He later pleaded guilty to fraudulently charging almost $500,000 for personal expenses and legal work never actually performed. He served 16 months in prison.



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